Millions of people suffer from some form of pelvic floor dysfunction, a condition that can cause bladder and bowel incontinence in both men and women. The pelvic floor comprises the muscles, ligaments and nerves that provide physical and functional support for the rectum and bladder, as well as the the uterus and vagina in women. Although the condition can affect either gender, women tend to be especially prone to pelvic floor dysfunction. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found about a quarter of all women suffer from the condition.
The exact causes of pelvic floor dysfunction haven’t been definitively identified, but obesity or higher body-mass index (BMI), pelvic injury and being younger at the time of your first vaginal delivery have all been identified as risk factors. Although the condition also occurs more commonly as people get older, it should not be considered a part of “normal” aging. There are effective treatments that can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles or add additional support when necessary.
Knowing the signs of pelvic floor dysfunction is the best way to make sure you get treatment as early as possible, when the condition is still relatively mild.
Here’s what to watch out for:
- Persistent urges to have a bowel movement during a relatively brief period of time
- A feeling that bowel movements are incomplete
- Frequent constipation or straining when having a bowel movement
- Pain when urinating
- Leaking urine or stool
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Pain in the pelvic region
In addition to bladder and bowel incontinence, the condition can trigger pelvic organ prolapse, which occurs when the vagina, uterus and/or bowel “drop” into the vagina canal, causing pressure and discomfort as well as pain during intercourse.
If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to schedule an exam and evaluation as soon as possible. Pelvic floor dysfunction rarely goes away “on its own,” but with proper management, you can relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of living.
For more information call Dr. Melissa Kaufman and Dr. Barry Jarnagin at The Incontinence Institute